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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Analysis: Gothenburg's place in history
Signing of 1997 Amsterdam summit
The Amsterdam summit led to a new EU treaty
By Europe correspondent Angus Roxburgh

The European Commission distributed a handy list this week of all the European Councils - or summits - that have been held since the first in Dublin in 1975.

The cities where some were held have gone down in history, attached to more-or-less memorable events: Fontainebleau in 1984 was where Mrs Thatcher demanded Britain's "money back", and won a rebate on the UK's contributions to the EU budget. Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice produced treaties.

Others left their names attached to nothing.

A draft version of the Council 'conclusions' has already been written

They are scarcely a shorthand scribble in the annals of EU history, having come and gone as bland discussions of "ways to bring Europe closer to its people" (a perennial favourite), or "subsidiarity". Or agreements to move towards consideration of eventual introduction of a mechanism to establish an initiative on monetary union (what, you don't remember the Bremen Council of 1978?).

The Commission's memo notes that Gothenburg, June 2001, is the 66th European Council, not counting a number of "extraordinary" ones. So will it go down in history?

Three E words

It may well be remembered for the event that overshadowed it: President George W Bush's visit on its eve, accompanied by tens of thousands of protesters and thousands of riot police.

The agenda itself deals with the environment, the enlargement of the EU, foreign affairs, especially the Middle East and Macedonia, and - a latecomer to the agenda - what to do about Ireland's rejection of the Nice Treaty in its referendum last week.

Police remove protesters from outside Gothenburg meeting rooms
Thousands of protesters are expected at the Gothenburg summit
Sweden identified three words beginning with E as its priorities for its six-month presidency of the EU - employment, enlargement and the environment. Employment was "done" at the Stockholm summit in March and that has already sunk without trace.

In Gothenburg, the second E - environment - will come to the fore, with a debate on promoting sustainable development.

The third E - enlargement - will be contentious, with 12 candidate members of the Union waiting to see whether the current 15 are willing to name a date on which the first new members will be admitted.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will receive much sympathetic back-slapping. Neither he nor any of his colleagues expected the Irish electorate to reject the Nice Treaty.

Much advice will be traded across the table, in the hope that a way can be found to persuade the voters to have a second thought about what they have done.

Persuading Ireland

Nothing can disguise the fact that, while the EU issued a statement "respecting the outcome of the democratic process", they would all like the Irish to give democracy a second chance, in the hope that they get it right next time round.

The Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson has prepared the way for success by touring all EU capitals to co-ordinate views and thrash out ideas. A draft version of the Council "conclusions" has already been written. Much of the work that goes on during the summit concerns tweaking and redrafting this text.

At controversial meetings, such as the Nice summit last December, the text becomes a serious bone of contention, with every comma argued over. At Gothenburg, the debate will be less heated.

During the night from Friday to Saturday, officials will put the final touches to it, to reflect the previous day's debate and it is then translated into all 11 official languages. On Saturday it will be adopted.

Only history will tell whether in 10 or 20 years time the "Gothenburg conclusions" will still resonate.

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30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
Nice Treaty
30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
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